Attaining success in the modern world requires a new type of skill set that centers on technological literacy and the ability to think critically and collaborate effectively with teams in physical and digital environments. To help young people develop 21st-century skills, schools and youth-driven organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) are promoting a mastery of fundamental academic subjects, such as history and language arts, while emphasizing education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.
In 2014, BGCA hosted STEM Great Think, a national event that brought thought leaders from other nonprofit groups together with key influencers in education, government, and business to establish partnerships and programs for advancing STEM education in the out-of-school environment. Since then, Boys and Girls Clubs has continued to play a key role in inspiring youth, especially those from underserved backgrounds, to pursue an interest in STEM subjects both in and out of school. Read on for a look at what BGCA and its partners have been doing in the area of STEM education.
Closing the Opportunity Gap
All of BGCA’s efforts in STEM are focused on ensuring that every child, regardless of race, gender, or economic background, has the opportunity to attain success in an ever-changing world. Recently, the number of jobs in STEM fields has been growing nearly twice as fast as other disciplines. However, many young people are entering the workforce without the knowledge or skills needed to pursue a STEM career. The lack of skills and/or interest in STEM is especially prevalent among minority youth and young women, but kids and teens from low-income families are also affected.
By offering after-school and summer educational programming to a large number of underrepresented youth, BGCA plays an important, and often unrecognized, role in closing the opportunity gap in STEM education. Past research has shown that the type of programs offered at Boys and Girls Clubs sparks young peoples’ interest in STEM fields and is particularly impactful for African-American, Asian-American, and Latino youth. According to BGCA’s 2017 National Outcomes Report, male and female 12th-grade Club members of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds are nearly twice as likely to show an interest in STEM fields as 12th graders who are not involved in their local Club.
Teaching Kids and Teens to Code
Boys and Girls Clubs across the country rely on corporate support to provide fun and educational STEM programs for their youth members. In 2017, BGCA and Lenovo launched a partnership to get Club members interested in coding and computer science. Through the partnership, 10 Clubs nationwide will expand their STEM programming to include app-building activities for kids and teens.
For its part, Lenovo, a leading technology provider, is offering PC equipment, computer programs, and volunteer support for “Hackathon” events at local Clubs. During the events, youth teams work with Lenovo employee volunteers to create working app prototypes. The teams then present their apps for a chance to win prizes.
The Hackathon partnership with BGCA is an extension of the long-standing relationship that Lenovo has had with local Clubs near its US global headquarters at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. In addition to the Wake County Boys and Girls Club in Raleigh, Clubs in Georgia, Connecticut, California, and Florida are benefitting from the Lenovo-BGCA partnership.
Launching STEM Centers of Innovation
Across the country and in many locations overseas, BGCA serves youth in communities that have a strong military presence. The organization began partnering with the US military nearly three decades ago and now serves over 480,000 school-aged children of military families worldwide. To help BGCA provide high-quality STEM experiences for military youth, Raytheon Company has committed $5 million to create Stem Centers of Innovation at BGCA-affiliated military installations.
To date, Raytheon has created 14 Centers of Innovation as part of its five-year funding initiative. A full-time STEM expert is available to assist youth at all of the Centers, which offer fun STEM-based programming and exciting technologies such as 3-D printers and high-definition video equipment. Centers of Innovation have been opened in Germany and several US states, including Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. Thanks to a recent $1 million donation from The Walt Disney Company, BGCA will be able to open 12 new additional STEM Centers of Innovation in communities throughout the nation.
Supporting 21st-Century Teaching and Learning
Over the past few years, BGCA has been working toward a goal of engaging at least half of all Club members in some type of STEM-based programming by 2020. Clubs across the country are facilitating these efforts by offering programs such as DIY STEM. Corporations such as Samsung and Time Warner Cable have supported the program, which teaches scientific principles through hands-on activities and learning modules.
BGCA also offers STEM experiences during the summer through its Summer Brain Gain learning loss prevention program. It includes project-based activities for Club youth in elementary through high school. BGCA’s other science-based programs include Tech Girls Rock, a national initiative that supports information technology workshops for tween and teen girls 10 to 18 years old.